As Sidley’s Washington, D.C. office celebrates 60 years since opening its doors, we sat down with Kristin Graham Koehler — managing partner and global co-leader of the firm’s White Collar: Government Litigation and Investigations group — to discuss some of the exceptional attributes of Sidley’s Washington, D.C. office.
How would you describe the culture of the D.C. office? Has it evolved since you joined Sidley?
When I joined Sidley in 1999, there were approximately 110 lawyers. Today, we have 330 lawyers in the office, primarily in the litigation and regulatory practices. We have made some considerable growth in my time here. But the culture of the office really remains the same in the sense that the lawyers here are extremely talented, but also fundamentally decent, kind, wonderful people, which is precisely why I joined Sidley.
In addition to the character of the people who comprise the office, what are some of the office’s practice strengths?
One of the things that makes this office extraordinary is the intersection between our litigation and regulatory practices. Our litigation teams work really closely with our regulatory teams. That brings our clients an incredibly sophisticated offering — our litigators and white collar lawyers focus on the process and the government aspect, and that is married with our deep subject-matter regulatory expertise in such areas as healthcare, energy, and environmental law.
Our clients come to us with their most challenging problems, which is wonderful for the lawyers in this office because we get to work on interesting, cutting-edge cases. I think that is a hallmark of this office, whether it’s our litigation against the government, our transactional work, our white collar work, or our regulatory work.
In what ways do you see the office continuing to grow in the years ahead?
We are focused on building out some of our practices in a very strategic way. In some of our practices we are seeing succession planning, or we’re adding lawyers to complement our strength in areas like antitrust litigation, commercial litigation, and product liability litigation. We are looking for talent that we can add to our platform that augments the very strong base we already have here in the D.C. office.
We are also committed to continuing to grow our preeminent Supreme Court practice, as well as our extraordinary white collar practice and our regulatory specialties. We added some very significant data and cybersecurity talent last year, and I think you’ll continue to see this type of growth.
The D.C. office has a long tradition of pro bono representation. Can you talk a bit about that?
Pro bono work is incredibly important to this office; it is a part of our DNA and something we are hugely committed to. We recently held our annual D.C. office pro bono award ceremony, where we honored 122 lawyers and professional staff who had met or exceeded 60 hours of pro bono work. Last year, in 2022, our lawyers in D.C. performed over 34,000 hours of pro bono work, the highest ever. We are super proud of that, and of the fact that our pro bono work is 7.1 percent of total client hours, which is great.
What words of advice do you have for D.C. office summer associates to help them make the most of their summer at Sidley?
My advice is to lean in and try lots of different work and try to meet as many people as possible. I encourage summer associates to try a lot of projects, work with different people, and see the different types of legal work that they might like to do. On the social side, I encourage them to spend time with as many lawyers as they can. We try to expose them to the practice of law and what it’s like to work here, so they are engaged in meaningful, substantive client work.
What are your favorite local landmarks that you would recommend for those who are visiting D.C.?
There are so many, but I would most strongly encourage anyone who is visiting this city to walk from our office on K Street past the White House, which is just two blocks away, and then continue on down to the National Mall. No visit to D.C. is complete without a walk around the entire National Mall.
Go to the Washington Monument and then walk over to the Lincoln Memorial, see all of the rest of the memorials, and then walk down to the Capitol. There’s nothing quite like it. I was just talking to a law student this morning about it. Even having been here for 24 years, it never gets old to see the Capitol, or to see the presidential motorcade. It’s a great city to be in.